The Hartford History Center is home to the Hartford Collection, a non-circulating, multi-media collection comprised of more than 50,000 books, trade publications, directories, postcards, photographs and memorabilia that convey community life in Hartford spanning nearly 300 years. Officially named in 1945, the archives and special collections of Hartford Public Library date back to the 18th century, to the library’s own beginning.
In 1774, the Library Company, a private subscription company where members bought and borrowed books, was started by a group of city leaders. Incorporated in 1799, the Library Company changed its name to the Hartford Library Company and occupied space at various locations throughout the city.
In 1838, the Hartford Young Men’s Institute was organized, drawing from members in the city’s financial community. The institute loaned books, scheduled lectures, and developed a collection that absorbed the Hartford Library Company’s volumes. Former library company members were granted privileges within the new institute. Approximately half of the Library Company’s original collection, cataloged in 1797, exists today as part of the Hartford Collection. In 1843, the institute accepted Daniel Wadsworth’s invitation to move into the newly constructed Wadsworth Atheneum at 624 Main Street. The move was made in 1844 and the museum served as the library’s home for the next 113 years.
In 1878, the Hartford Young Men’s Institute changed its name to the Hartford Library Association. At that time, there were 643 members, and about half its membership included older men and women. In 1892, with taxpayer support, the library association was opened to the general public. By a special act of the Connecticut General Assembly on May 9, 1893, its name was changed to Hartford Public Library. Noted librarian Caroline M. Hewins, hired by the Hartford institute in 1875, became Hartford Public Library’s first librarian. Hewins’ career at the city library spanned 51 years. She was an active participant in the newly formed American Library Association, helped found the Connecticut State Library Association in 1891 and opened one of the first children’s libraries in the country in 1904. In recognition of her contributions, she was the first woman to receive an honorary Master of Arts degree in 1911 from Hartford’s Trinity College.
Hartford Public Library was and remains a private corporation, supported by the city. Today, the collection includes first edition volumes of Hartford authors Mark Twain, Lydia Huntley Sigourney, Thomas Tryon, Noah Webster, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Chuck Stone and Wallace Stevens as well as material from Dr. Horace Wells’ estate. In addition, the collection holds an inscribed copy of Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the complete 90 volume bound collection of the Noah Webster pamphlets.
Formally established by Chief Librarian Magnus Kristofferson in 1945, the Hartford Collection is divided into three sections: Hartford subjects, Hartford authors, and Hartford imprints. The archive is housed in the Hartford History Center, located on the third floor of the downtown library at 500 Main Street.
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This list is an introduction to the archive and does not list all special collections. As materials are processed and arranged, and finding aids developed, they will be added to this page. For further information, contact the Hartford Collection curator at (860) 695-6347.
- Books – Hartford authors and Hartford subjects are accessible through the library’s electronic catalog. A link to the library catalog is on Hartford History Center’s home page at www.hplct.org/hhc. A link is also available on Hartford Public Library’s homepage at www.hplct.org by clicking on “Find an Item.” You can isolate your search to books found only in the Hartford History Center by choosing “Central Hartford History” when you click on “View Entire Collection.”
- City Directories – years available listed in the library’s electronic catalog; directories are also available on microfilm on the Main Floor of the Downtown Library, mid-19th century to mid-20th-century.
- Hartford Imprints – 19th-century Hartford was a major publishing center. The collection holds a number of books published in the city during this time. These books cover a great range of topics that are not necessarily about Hartford. Included in these publications are texts on gardening, religion, women, history, and education. A card index for Hartford imprints is available in the Hartford History Center. It is arranged by year of publication and spans 1777 – 1983.
- Municipal Registers – City of Hartford department reports, 1875-1920.
- Pamphlets – a collection of city reports, church bulletins, sermons, agency reports, school bulletins, theater programs, etc. They are indexed in the Hartford History Center card catalog by the year published; 1767-present.
- Periodicals –
- The Hartford Courant is available online 1764-1984 through the Historical Hartford Courant database and 1993- present through the iConn electronic database. It is also available in microfilm for the years 1764 to the latest received on the Main Floor of the Downtown Library.
- Hartford Times is available on microfilm for the years 1817-1846 and 1870-1976 on the Main Floor of the Downtown Library. Hartford History Center holds a subject index for the Hartford Times 1950-1976.
- A variety of neighborhood and small Hartford-based periodicals are also available; a finding aid is under development. Periodicals include the Hartford Advocate, the Hartford News, Southside Neighborhood News, the Hartford Inquirer, Northend Agent’s, and the West Indian American as well as some 19th century publications such as The Hartford Chat (1891-1892) and The Evangelist (1824).
- Connecticut Explored, formerly the Hog River Journal, a magazine of Connecticut history, is available Fall 2002 to present and an online subject index is available.
- Photographs -a number of photographic images in the collection have been photocopied and notebooks of the photocopied images are available for viewing. Photograph collections include:
- City of Hartford, Engineering Department – photocopied notebooks available, 1909-1954
- City of Hartford, Parks Department – photocopied notebooks available, late 1800s – 1950s
- DeBonee Collection – photocopied notebooks available, Hartford native and local photographer Anthony (Tony) DeBonee (1924- 2001), photographs are of the city, 1940-1990s
- Faith Congregational Church – photocopied notebooks available, majority taken in the 1990s, some in the late 1940s-early 1950s
- G. Fox Collection – photocopied notebooks available, 1940s-1960s
- Gray Lodge- photocopied notebooks available, 1970s-1990s
- Hartford Collection – photocopied notebooks available, mid-1800s to present, subject index available in the Hartford History Center card catalog
- Hartford Housing Authority – photocopied notebooks available, 1940s-1970s
- Hartford Public Library Collection – photocopied notebooks available, photographs of and relating to Hartford Public Library, 1940 to present day
- Hartford Times Collection - image archive for the years 1950-1976, subject index available
- Martin Collection – photocopied notebook available, photographs are of the Constitution Plaza construction project, 1960-1963
- Regis Collection – photocopied notebook available, Marc-Yves Regis is a native of Haiti, Hartford resident and Hartford Courant photographer, images are of Hartford’s North End, for a 2003 Hartford Public Library exhibition
- Southside Neighborhood News / The Hartford News – a community newspaper first published in August 1977, it became The Hartford News in 1988, a weekly focused on city-wide issues. Photographs span the years 1977- June 2008 – currently being processed
- Stoeckel Collection – Hartford native, historian and newspaperman Herbert J. Stoeckel (1896-1967); photocopied notebooks available, late 1800s-mid-1900s, subject index available in the Hartford History Center card catalog
- Postcards – images covering a wide range of subjects that include banks, bridges, buildings, floods, parks and stores
- Scrapbooks – 18 volumes of Hartford-specific clippings covering the first half of the 20th century. A subject index is available in the card catalog in the Hartford History Center. Scrapbooks are also available on microfilm on the Main Floor of the Downtown Library.
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The Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library, is a special collection of books, photographs, manuscripts, and ephemera relating to the history of Hartford. Though the collection is open to everyone, particular rules governing its use are necessary to assure its availability for generations to come.
- All users of the Hartford History Center Collection must fill out a Project Description Form and leave with the desk one form of photo identification verifying name and address or school identification. A form must be filled out for each new project.
- All briefcases, bags, coats, and other personal articles are to be left in the coat closet. Researchers may use pencil, paper, or small personal computers when working with the collection. Pens are not permitted.
- Researchers must fill out a call slip for each item requested.
- Hartford History Center material may not leave the Hartford History Center room.
- Researchers are responsible for the careful handling of all Hartford History Center material. Holdings are not be marked, folded, or mishandled in any way.
- Items in folders must be kept in order. If something appears to be out of order or in need of repair, please report it to a staff member.
- Photocopying or reproducing is dependent upon permission of the curator and is governed by staff supervision. If the material can be photocopied by the customer, on site, there is a 10 cent charge per photocopied page. If staff is required to photocopy the material because of its condition or at the request of the customer, there is a $6.00 handling charge. Customers requesting photocopies by telephone or mail will pay a handling charge as noted on the Hartford Public Library Order Form. Reproduction fees are currently under review. A request must be made to the curator in writing.
- Permission to publish or reproduce published or unpublished works under copyright must be obtained from the copyright holder. It is the researcher’s responsibility to secure permission.
- Researchers agree to cite Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library anywhere items from the collection are quoted, referred to, or reproduced.
- Hartford Public Library Order Form
- Reproduction Permission Form